Friday, May 2, 2014

FEATURE FRIDAY 5/2 - Crushing Customary Common Core with Julie Conlon

Gina, Your Host of PerfettoWritingRoom,
RIGHT, my new friend Julie Conlon and
beautiful daughter Rory!

Has May actually come again? Here at the PerfettoWritingRoom, it's Friday once again. The time when we get to do some of our favorite things: talk secondary English, classroom joys and challenges, make new friends and discuss great ways to improve our classrooms. 

Before we do much of anything get your morning cup of coffee ready. I just made some banana bread with raisins because my husband hates nuts (so why'd he marry me? Am I right?) Should I give ya a minute? Let's get this place percolating!

1. Odd and Brilliant Ways to Use the Common Core in May, when, you know what? The student just aren't having it . . .!
                              visit my store    

 I LOVE nothing more than a great writing prompt that PROVES the inestimable value of poetry or fiction writing. I also love nothing more than proving all those nosy parkers, extra chefs in the kitchen, or spoon stirrers who want to say that such writing is fun, "has its place," but otherwise is useless and is without rigor, or that say there aren't many common core applications.

I know for a fact that after disciplined and targeted poetry and short fiction writing, students often feel an ease in the essay format, as if there is somehow "more room" for them to write, and it is suddenly a simpler format than they remember. This is true across the curriculum, whether students write in history class or art class or in biology.
      I put out a product called "Story Starter Prompts with Research and Argument Tie- Ins" - I love this product because it proves that while going through a fiction writing activity, you can use and have students gain mastery in common core standards usually reserved for essay writing. Let's be honest - a type of writing they just don't want to do in March, April, May, and June.
Please look at it here.

I'll do ya one better, and argue that rigorous poetry and short fiction writing can actually be more difficult than some types of essay writing. I'll accept the hate mail, but in the meantime, consider the difficulty involved in organizing a story that FAR from being a formulaic "list your three points and your three reasons with a graphic organizer" (I know that I am simplifying, so forgive me) must consider spelling and grammar just as they would in any other writing assignment, plus organization, back story, realism or purposeful lack of realism, possibly research, logic, cause and effect, explanation and argument all in one story depending on the needs of the particular elements within. Let us not even begin to talk about symbolism, or characters, pacing, believable dialogue. . .should I go on? Is this NOT critical thinking? Are there not applicable common core standards?

ANY poetry of writing prompt you do can have caveats in them. These caveats can be guidelines. And yes these caveats can be aligned with the common core, but I guarantee you that the students will be motivated.

Fickle, Fickle May - And Wonderful New Friend and Lifesaver Julie Conlon
2. How Does Julie Conlon Use Common Core?
When Julie isn't at Disney World or at dance class with her daughter Rory, AND, when she isn't working very hard on Pinterest, she is cooking up really unbelievable lifesaving literacy assessment items like this one. Have you never been to her store? Here's what it looks like and I do ask you, please go for a little visit. Click, Like, download a freebie, say hi. Be neighborly!

                                   Pop in and say "Hi!" or follow

The more I write these articles, the HAPPIER I am to do them. I so deeply enjoy having the opportunity to learn and grow as a result of meeting new secondary English teachers.

The Common Core - a Metaphor!
The common core is a BEAR. A lumbering, clawed, not very sophisticated beast.  To work around the bear you don't have many options. You can run, play dead, but only the truly great come up with something original. The great Bill Cosby joked about killing one with a loose leaf notebook. But then I met the great Julie Conlon who killed it with ingenuity and a great resource

 Much like my Story Starter Prompts that use the Common Core Standards through an unexpected creative writing activity,

Julie Conlon's Formative Assessment Exit Slips are so much more than what you think they are. In terms of making a FUN, usable and flexible Common Core Product, these exit slips hit the mark. They bring down that bear right in the belly (with honey everybody - I love animals!).

What they are not: 
- One dimensional or one-note (write what you don't understand)
- Obligatory (As you walk out, hand these over!)
- Rigid (Here is how they must be used)
*There's nothing wrong with any of those above, but take a peek at the review below.

Let's look at little at this tamed animal. 

See me in Julie's Store so you can look at a preview.

What This Product IS: 
- Based on literacy strategies (Julie was a literacy coach)
- for middle or high school, in any subject where you want to assess
   for understanding and nuances in understanding and critical 
- Created and intended as exit slips with unbelievably simple print
  and go forms for you to fold and make into your own little "brain 
  station" anywhere in your classroom and students.
- BUT, respectfully, in my opinion, can be used AS YOU see fit, as
   part of a lesson, or as the lesson (it really is that rich with ideas). 
- Ideal this time of year, but absolutely can be used all year long.
- All common-core aligned reading assessments, with a handy 
   reference guide for the teacher. You know what standard each 
   slip will address. How genius is that. How much less work for 

Chatting with Julie after I had actually reviewed this resource, what most struck me was the thought, care, and love that went into the product. The multitude of students' learning needs, thinking strategies, and forms of expression seemed to all be accounted for on these slips. It seemed to address all the different learning styles, while helping students show what they know and explain where they got confused. Of course there is more, all the subtle nuances: predicting, pro and con, summarizing, making inferences, and so much more. 
     The more I looked the more impressed I was. I saw how indispensable this would be in any classroom where reading took place (is there a classroom where reading doesn't take place?).  Instead of each week laboriously tackling a new Common Core standard, it was all there on little slips.

Question: How did you do it? 
Answer: The "first draft" of the product (also still available in my store) was my reading strategy exit slips.  I used these to monitor my students' independent reading progress--they were all reading different books, so I needed a way to evaluate their progress that would work for any text.  I based them off of the reading strategies in Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis (making connections, questioning, predicting, making inferences, etc.). 

Question: When did you first come up with the idea for a resource that would cover so many literacy assessment needs?
Answer: This set was created when I found myself in my new role as a literacy coach.  Teachers of all subjects were asking for ways to monitor their students' reading comprehension.  I adapted my "fiction-based" exit slips and added more general strategies to create this product.  In the product, you'll see that I give suggestions for using each of the 20 different slips--most instructions include ways to use it with reading or with general classroom lessons.  I even use them in professional development workshops to gauge participants' understanding!   

Question: I hope we have regular workaday teachers and some TPT teacher-sellers reading today, too. Do you have any advice for making products?

Answer: Thanks, Gina. One thing I realized by exploring other stores is that everything is an option. I forget sometimes that ideas/products that are just part of my everyday routine as a veteran teacher could be very useful to a new teacher. I'm trying to look at my files from the perspective of someone new to the profession--what can I share that will make their lives easier than mine was in those first few years?

So whether you are a NEW TEACHER, a BUSY one, or even a TPT seller yourself, pop in to Julie Conlon's store. See her best-selling product. Just click on the live link above. JULIE will be having a SALE. There is no better time than to give your students the gift of learning!

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JOIN US! Come back Tuesday for TPT Tips for Tuesday, where you can learn tips from the $1000 dollar club. Learn how to own your own success and do better.

JOIN US! Come back every Friday for Feature Friday where wonderful Secondary Sellers unite and talk shop! The coffee's always hot and ready for you! (tea optional!).

Visit Me! See my Common Core Story Starters!
Do you want to become a seller? Oh come on, let me refer you!

WHAT IS THE BEST, most intriguing and fun or unexpected way to use the Common Core Standards in your secondary (or Middle School) classroom? How do YOU kill that bear??  

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